Caring for “lonely children”: A socio-legal analysis of orphan welfare in China

Date: Wednesday, 11 September
Time: 4.30-5.30pm
Venue: AM 103, Alan MacDiarmid Building, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington (map)


Across China, humanitarian workers have organised a range of caregiving facilities to provide supplementary welfare for China’s “lonely children” (gu’er, orphans), in response to perceived deficiencies in the state orphanage system. These groups, which are mostly faith-based, emerged in the context of a broader societal shift from “welfare statism” to “welfare pluralism”. However, formal law and policy has not always kept pace with this shift. In practice, state regulation of these unauthorised care providers has mostly centred on local-level negotiations, hidden rules, and discretion, rather than clear laws and policies, with mixed outcomes for children. In exploring these dynamics, this research sheds light on the life paths and stories of today’s “lonely children” and the changing terrain of civil society, humanitarianism, policy-making, and state power in modern China.

About the speaker

Anna High is lecturer in law at the University of Otago. Prior to joining the faculty in 2017, Anna was Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence and Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she taught criminal law and Chinese law. She has lived and studied in Beijing, and clerked in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Anna completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (Queensland & Magdalen 2008). Her first book, Non-Governmental Orphan Relief in China: Law, Policy, and Practice (2019) is a socio-legal analysis of the negotiated existence of unregistered child welfare NGOs in China and their interactions with the local state.

Caring for “lonely children”: A socio-legal analysis of orphan welfare in China  (PDF)